Tag Archives: women’s fashion

It’s All About Discovery (Not eCommerce).

I travel a lot. I meet interesting people, I taste incredible food, I see creativity manifested in many ways, and hear foreign languages and the hum of big cities nearly everywhere I go. My senses are pleasantly on overload much of the time, and honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

To have the ability to experience all of that adds so many things to my life – things that I know most people are missing today. And what scares me is I’m not sure they know they’re missing it, because their eyes are always on their computers.

But I do think it’s why a lot of people can’t seem to stop asking me, or understand why I’ve decided not take Louis online. They want to know why I keep avoiding ecommerce and all that goes along with it, but I assure you I have some pretty good reasons – reasons that continue to surprise and delight every person who walks through the door at 60 Northern Avenue. I don’t sell my things online for them. I don’t sell the things you find at Louis online so they can walk into my store and keep their senses connected with the world around them and continue to appreciation all of the things they could never experience with the click of a mouse.

I think a lot about ecommerce, and I understand why some people think I should “change” the way I do things and move in that direction, but that doesn’t mean they understand the true ramifications of that word. From where I’m sitting, Louis is changing all the time – in a never ending movement of new colors and shapes and designers and fabrics – all of the things those people will never be able to experience and appreciate from looking at a computer screen.

It all comes down to this: I don’t sell Louis online and I don’t have an app because I want you to walk into my store and EXPERIENCE and APPRECIATE all that the eye can see and the hands and body can feel. I want to you smell wool and touch fabric and ask questions and discover new things. Life is about discovery, and you can’t do it when you’re sitting at a computer.

Besides how it effects you, not going digital also effects me, and my business. But the truth is, I’m not interested in sacrificing everything Louis is to make a fast dollar on the internet. I am however, interested in maintaining our integrity and sustaining our longevity, and holding fast to the long term effects of my actions.

I stay off of the internet because I am not interested in being a hot .com for a little while. I’m interested in keeping the leadership position that I’ve earned, that we all covet in this industry. Four generations have given the Louis experience to our customers – and people won’t know what that is if they can’t physically come here to experience everything we have to offer.

If I turned my attention to ecommerce, everything would change around here, and not for the better. I would no longer be able to offer one-of-a-kind pieces from exciting, young designers…and you would have to wait to hear about them from Vogue. I would have to start buying for a much bigger audience, and things that are produced en masse, can become rather boring and predictable. Don’t you agree? I don’t want to be strangled by the buying machine, and trust me, you don’t want me to be either.

I want you to try things on to find your proper size season to season, and see that you are NOT two dimensional like some designers who sell online would like for you to believe. You are in fact three-dimensional and what looks good on you just might not look good on the next person.

I want you to embrace your individuality, stop buying what the lastest “it” girl was wearing on E! last week, and begin to understand that by doing so you are letting the industry control who you are and influence what you like. The truth is (and the truth can hurt), what they’re wearing and what the stylists are pushing on their bodies has no relevance to you and your life.

I want you to evolve as a shopper by abandoning the sites you frequent and buying the same things in different colors, and get into a store where you can be introduced to new designers and styles and cuts of clothing you may not have noticed before. Expand your ideas of what looks good on you because in fashion, ignorance is NOT bliss.

I want you to understand that random online clicking will never help you build a wardrobe, it will only help you collect things – things that will go out of style well before they wear out from washing. How can you build the cohesive wardrobe you deserve if you aren’t able to buy pieces that work several ways together instead of alone, one at a time?

You may not realize it yet, although I think more and more people are catching on every day, that the internet is turning into the Sears Catalog that first appeared in 1888 and flourished in early 1900’s, and that while it’s moving us forward, it’s also bringing us way back in time. If you’re paying close attention, there are a lot of new stores like Louis popping up here and there, because the old way is now the new way to do good business.

Not sold? Do you still think shopping online is the way to go? If so, I challenge you – the next time you want to go shopping – to shut down your computer, leave your home, and make your way out into the world for a real “user experience”. Your senses are waiting.

You’ll thank me someday. You’ll see.

photo

After All That Movement Where is The Real Fashion?

I just got back from Paris where the much anticipated shows from Dior and St Laurent produced a wild media frenzy for collections that were …um …OK. Yet again the media created controversy for the big houses with tons of copy and air time, and I am pretty sure the luxury consumer could care very little about the outcome . My take on these shows was that they were derivative of other designers work and the press gave the credit to these mega brands. Let’s start with St Laurent. The good news about the St Laurent show is that Mr. Slimane used the foundation of St Laurents original looks from the 70’s for his 2013 show.

St Laurent in the 70's

Now St Laurent 2013

St Laurent 2013

 Rachel Zoe’s has always been accused of copying St Laurent (but updating the fit). Here are pictures of her past shows and advertisements….

A Rachel Zoe Ad

From a Rachel Zoe Fashion Show

Confused? So was I….what was all the fuss about? Another show, much anticipated,was the return of Jil Sander, back to her namesake (which she sold for $250 million) . Granted Jil is still getting her feet back into the business at age 68. Her show was OK….good attempt…lots of press and lots of talk about it….But the Marni show was Jil Sander at her finest (only not designed by Jil) Marni has been exploring a new version of Minimalism for a long time but the press only talks about the big advertising accounts which is not Marni. If they do talk about Marni it’s usually a small blurb about her prints not her architecture. Who do you think did Jil better?

Jil Sander S/S 2013

Jil Sander S/S 2013

Or Marni?

Marni S/S 2013

Marni S/S 2013

 

Raf Simons did a pretty good job for his first Dior Show…Over 50% of the show was decent. The press LOVED it which was over the top but of course Dior is a BIG advertiser. Here are a few shots of that show.

Dior S/S 2013

Dior S/S 2013

What’s the point of this blog? Fashion has so many dimensions and unfortunately  the public only gets about 15% of the information. Plus if advertisers are the only people that the press talks about how can anyone grow in this business? Same old houses, same old designers….no credit for the real new and different….this bothers me.

How Did We Get Here?

Every day I keep hearing the question “how did we get here?”. The only answer I can come up with is; “because we don’t want to pay for anything”. How did we manage to ship all our jobs overseas?….because we didn’t want to pay for anything. “How did we get into this healthcare mess?” ….because we didn’t want to pay for it (and then some of us ended paying too much for it)…. How is it you can’t go into a store anymore to see TV screens and only a few manufacturers still make them?…Because no one wanted to pay for them…so you can only choose from 3 adaquate manufacturers. Don’t get me wrong we WANT all these things….even though most people can’t distinguish the difference between good and bad quality….we just don’t want to pay a lot for anything. We want the big DISCOUNT of life….no matter what. That’s what drives the American consumer and it’s no secret that everyone takes advantage of that fact to give us what we want…one big DISCOUNT…because somehow we feel entilted to it!

Please read this article I ran across the other day.

The new dynamic: Off-price is not for the faint of heart

May 1, 2012 By Karen Alberg Grossman

 “What’s an off-price store anyway?” asks David Lapidos, EVP of the OffPrice Show, alluding to the extent of discounting and promotional activity in conventional stores. “Off-price stores come here to do the bulk of their buying; regular stores come to improve their margins.”

According to Lapidos, the show’s exhibitor base these days is half manufacturers and importers, half jobbers. “Jobbers can no longer exist on just clearance merchandise since few manufacturers are overcutting or taking risks. Consequently, several have developed their own lines for department stores that they also show here; others have goods made specifically for this show.”

Tom Joyce of Building 19 is a retail expert in off-price. His stores, based inMassachusetts, are famous for value product and wonderfully quirky advertising. As he explains, “It takes expertise and finesse to get good brands at good prices, especially in a tight market. There are no longer large quantities available domestically, so jobbers are going overseas. What’s more, it’s a gentleman’s business: if a jobber’s stuck with something, you help him out and then next time around, he’ll help you. With the right relationships, you can lock up exclusives, especially from department store shelf pulls. So I can sell a gorgeous designer name sweater at $9.99—maybe it’s Pantone 423 vs. 422, but who cares? Having last year’s goods is less of a factor in men’s.”

According to Joyce, great offerings are finite. “There are only limited amounts of most off-price product; when it’s gone; it’s gone. And the biggest change over the last few years is that as stores and manufacturers reduce inventories to accelerate turn, availability of the most desirable goods has diminished.”

Another issue, he explains, are the growing middle classes inChina,Indiaand other Asian countries. “Many opportunities of the past are staying in local markets overseas. If factories can sell goods in their own country, they don’t have to use quota or pay duty.”

Joyce cites another issue: chains (Bealls, National Stores, etc.) using larger quantities so that one call from a vendor could be 12,000 units—the end of that style if the chain buys it. “Several of my key vendors sold out of half their offerings by the end of the second day of the show,” he explains.

As regular-price department and specialty stores look to increase margins, off-price buys are an increasingly important part of their strategy. Concludes Joyce, “If they buy a $40 MSRP item for $5 (which means out the door at $17.99 to $19.99), they can special sale these goods at $14.99 and still triple their money. So while it’s hard to forecast and there are many frustrating variables, off-price remains a dynamic and viable business.”

Well there you have it….a whole industry built on the idea that it really doesn’t matter what it is, if it’s cheap and you can take advantage of the cheap consumer it’s on the shelves of your local stores and internet sights…..Be careful what you wish for, you’ll destroy the value of what you already have. (I sound like a fortune cookie)

 

 

Does It Really Make A Difference?

Well the news has finally arrived, Raf Simons, formerly of Jil Sander is now the designer for Dior.

Raf Simons the "New" Designer for Dior

So what does that exactly mean? Let’s backtrack shall we. A year ago, the former designer for Dior, John Galliano, was fired from his post because of racial slurs spoken during a drunken rage at a Paris bistro. A year long search took place but in the meantime the interim designer was a “second in command”  known for his tame, well crafted collections.  The public statements by LVMH, owner of Dior, say there hasn’t been any fluctuation in sales, and they have been experiencing an increase in sales due to the Asian market. So one designer, who was slowly deteriorating, gets fired but had no real influence on sales.  An interim designer, whose aesthetic was completely different, takes over and surprisingly there is no change in sales. And now we have yet a third designer put in place and everyone is writing about the merits of his talent and what effect it will have on sales. My guess is “it” will make no difference.

The basis for this statement is looking at the numbers, or the numbers told to us by LVMH. They are doing a great business no matter what because the foundation for their unbelievable success is their BRANDING machine. The sales come from consumers that “want to be”. They want to be known as rich, they want to be known as part of the “style club”, they want to have instant recognition as if they were famous. That recognition comes from “stars” wearing their clothes, shoes and handbags. That recognition comes from editorial appearances in all the top fashion magazines around the globe which is LVMH’s top priority. LVMH has monthly reports done on how many times their products appear in the press (editorial and/or star related) and put constant pressure on their public relations army… the same way Toyota puts pressure on their dealers when they look at their monthly unit numbers.

80% of Dior sales are shoes and handbags (which only a few pieces are in the fashion show). They are sold around the world at Dior shops in malls and airports. global department stores and then specialty stores which tend to sell more clothing. So the “designer” and the fashion show are just SHOW, that’s it.  The fashion show is one big advertisement that makes the press and buyers feel important. The show also gets editorial immediately and afterwards. If the fashion show reads over the top expensive, that translates to the consumer as “luxury”. But the designs and integrity of the product (clothing) means very little. So my prediction is the Raf Simons will do just fine. Once again design integrity is last on the list of consumer importance.

What Do The Working Women Wear?

I’m in the middle of buying “Pre-Fall”…whatever that means…and I’m looking at some pretty nice things when it occurs to me that I keep say the same thing to these brands, “What is she going to wear “that” with to the office?” You would think I was asking the most ridiculous question. The answer is always the same “oh they can throw “that” over black pants or a skirt”. Really? So I ask “who do you think is wearing these $1500 tailored jackets?” The answer is women who work.

This kills me. I come from a time when women were lucky just to be able to be in the same office as men, never mind having the same job. We have gone through several incarnations of workwear for women and we finally have the freedom to express ourselves (granted with some limitations) and we still have to explain to manufacturers that all these expensive clothes are worn by women who have somewhere to go in them…they actually serve a purpose. it’s not just fashion.

Look at the Cut (which is outstanding,) the Fabric Brings in the Freshness

As you can see we are just getting in some great suits for spring that I think show there is creativity in this category…..which means someone is thinking about the customer,  not pandering to the unrealistic pages of fashion magazines. This next suit is from Jason Wu. He’s part of the new generation of great creative and technical designers that move the needle forward for womens wear.

His use of lace, technical fabric and zipper closure freshen up this spring staple

So Simple but is it Really?

Last but not least (at all) is what looks like a simple black suit from The Row, but upon closer inspection the delicious fabric, the hip structure that make you look skinny (believe it or not ) and the skinny pant makes this suit a head turner. These are just a few examples of the new work wear. This is also a reminder that when you come to Louis you are NOT just looking at “fashion” that a designer puts out there, you are looking at an edited collection of clothing that has a purpose for your lifestyle….and isn’t that why you buy clothes?

That Grand Feeling of Perfection

I love my new boots. Yes I know you hear it all the time the “perfect boot” for Fall. But I mean this…but how would you know. Every magazine, every website, every shopping website, every catalogue, even every store claims this every Fall. It kinda looses it’s meaning. Having said that when you find the right one for you, it feels sooooo good. Every time you put them on, with every outfit, you say to yourself, “wow these are great boots”. Your start to take care of them…you bring them to be resoled with a rush charge. When you pack to go away you start with the boots and figure out your outfits that will surely highlight the boots. You find yourself wearing them everyday and when you have to wear another pair you sigh and make sure your wear the “great boots” the next day. Sometimes if you are really careful you wear them two years in a row everyday until the boots just plain wear out.

cool side buckle, tight at the ankle and calf, tall, great leather, flat, comfortable

Great heel, no shiny leather, open at the knee, easy to get on and off

Sorry for the blurry pictures I was in a hurry but you get the picture right? Pierre Hardy had these boots last year, but he perfected them this season. You will probably not find these in any magazine, you will probably not find these on any website….because they do not register as perfection from the photos. They do not register perfection from the description. They do not register perfection from the name brand. Actually they would only register perfection if you actually saw, felt, tried on these boots when someone pointed to them in front of you and you tried them on immediately. The consumer is missing so much by falling into the trap of brands, ease and the addiction of point and click.

When I “buy” for the store, I look at each piece I purchase with the same inspection as I did buying these boots for myself. That feeling of perfection when you own something that rewards you every time you wear it, is the goal. There are so many items that are chosen that even looking at them on the racks of our store you wouldn’t know were perfection until you tried them on. I make sure I see everything on a body before I “buy” the product, especially shoes. Shoes look so different on and off the foot. Not everything comes out the way it was shown…fabrics can change fit can be funny, but to be sure I am inspecting and selecting with a sharp focus, and aiming for no mistakes.

But what I’m really reaching for ALL of the time is giving you that feeling of confidence every time you pull that garment out of the closet and put it on your body…..ahhhh appreciation!!!!!

China : I Just Had To See It

I’ll save you from a slide show of China. But I do want to tell you my impressions of China because I have been bashing China in a lot of my blogs and I have a new found appreciation for the country and its people. Going to China altered some of my views of the country but my overall view that “made in China” has destroyed so many industries in America and taken away so many jobs is still in place. (I do know the US is also to blame)

There were three preconceptions that traveled with me to China that I have to say were completely not true. First is the people look and are depressed. No I didn’t travel all over the country, but the number 1 tourist nationality is Chinese. And you could see hundreds of thousands of the population from all over China at all the famous tourist attractions. 40,000 visitors go through the “Forbidden City’ every day. A small percentage of that number are westerners, the rest are from China. And these people were happy, laughing, and rightfully enjoying themselves, dressed in mostly western styled clothes. I admit that some of these preconceived views came from people who travelled right when the country opened it’s borders in the 80’s and not all of China is feeling the prosperity. But growth, manufacturing, and wealth have changed the energy of this country. You can feel the power of it’s new generation living so much better than their parents.

40,000 vistors come to the Forbidden City every Day

The second was the food. “Don’t eat the strange animals and their heads!” Ok there are some different fish and bugs, but mostly they eat very healthy, hence there aren’t very many heavy Chinese people. They stress exercise in their daily life and they actually practice what they preach. The only unhealthy things that are available are KFC  and MacDonald’s….thanks USA.

The Third, is something that no one told me but I read during the Olympics and literally couldn’t catch my breath about is the smog. Milan was the top of my list for so many years as one of the worst cities for smog…well Milan is like “the clean air club” compared.

Is it Fog or Smog....Both

If you look in the background of this picture you see a few cranes…..well those are minor compared to the hundreds we saw everywhere. China is the poster child for the words “BUILDING BOOM”. Now I know where all the steel and cement in the world are going. We read the government is slowing the pace of building down, if so I can’t imagine what these cities looked like three years ago. I’m surprised we have cranes here in the US and that the Chinese don’t own every crane in existence.

Now here are some of great things we found. In Guilin we stayed at the most amazing spot, it was a sculpture park on 130 acres with a great hotel and spa. We were the only people there and the air was better than anywhere else we stayed. This jewel in the middle of nowhere was genius…except ….we were the only people staying there. They have an amazing meeting center there and they say they do have big businesses come and sponsor retreats….lucky them!

Just a Few of Hundreds Of Sculptures From All Over the World

Meeting Center

Some of Beijing’s Architecture is outstanding. My favorite was the Theater Pavilion that houses three theaters. This picture will not give you the sense of it’s size and proportion, just take my word for it and the interior keeps your eyes moving.

Steel and Glass Theater

The Interior!

And last but certainly not least is Shanghai. I could have stay there for two weeks. We stayed at the Peninsula Hotel (unbelievable) ate some of the best meals I’ve ever had. It was a great ending to a eye opening trip. I leave you with the night lights of Shanghai.

The Cargo ships are Constantly Moving Even at Night

I Forgot How Much Fun We Had in The 70’s

 

I usually poo-poo the fashion worn in the 70’s…it definitely was the worst time for men…it ruined the industry, Men have never trusted Men’s Fashion media and manufacturers/retailers since.  Separates dominated Women’s fashion during the 70’s and were the vehicle for individual expression. After the 70’s, the fashion mantra became EVERYONE wears black or EVERYONE wears denim and EVERYONE carries the “it” bag. Actually Women’s dressing during the first 50 of the 20th century were dresses, dresses, and dresses with a nod to jeans during the 50’s and a bigger nod to them during the 60’s. The 70’s gave the newly liberated woman a fashion choice with separates…separate tops, jackets, sweaters, pants, skirts and yes dresses. We had lots of fun in the dressing room the other day channeling the 70’s and here are some of the results. 

 

Check Out The Bag and Boots

 

This picture was taken with my IPhone and the Hipstamatic App. The film was “Float” and the lens was “Jimmy”. I love this App. Finally after eliminating the creativity of photography with digital cameras, there is an app that can change your photograph before you take the shot. It allows you to change the mood or the color or brightness….the possibilities are endless…what fun. Here’s another outfit created by “separates”.

Here's a Long Dress with a Knitted Fur Jacket

This again was shot with “Float” film and a “Jimmy” lens. Just as the word indicates the designers of these items are all separate as well. That’s the beauty of “separates” you can create new outfits everyday. This may change the way you shop, suddenly items have more merit by their flexibility, what you can put them with, instead of its’ designer.  It’s like the photograph you can mix films and lens and have multiple possibilities. Here’s another possibility:

 

Don't you just love Corduroy?

“Jimmy” again was the lens but the film was “Ina’s 1969” , doesn’t it look like it ….it matches exactly with the outfit. The color of the film looked like it came from a Kodak Brownie. Candice looks so cute and fresh with a vintage twist….so individual….Corduroy…. I don’t think I have worn that fabric since the 70’s. I forgot that it makes noise when you walk, and that it’s soft and comfy.

It is fun looking back….it’s fun teaching the next generation a look we created 40 years ago…..they look just as cute as we did…maybe.

 

Is It Relevant?

 

Who Are They Talking To?

In today’s style section of the New York Times, Cathy Horn wrote an article about the five things you need for Fall. The article starts off with her version of how the ads in all the “Big” September Issues of the major Fashion magazines have nothing to do with the modern working women…she then proceeds to ask all the editors from these magazines and others, what are the five top items that they are really lusting for  (meaning the items that they really WILL buy) this Fall Season.

The way that the fashion magazine world works is that if a brand advertises, then their clothes will be prominent in the editorial sections in the back of the book. A certain major editor set up that paradigm many years ago and now the integrity of fashion journalism has been tainted and the magazines are completely IRRELEVANT.

So much money, time and energy are wasted on advertising and editorials that the true American consumer of these kind of clothes wouldn’t buy. As always I ask…What’s wrong with this picture?…..In a time when the economy is forcing everyone in this industry to be as sharp and clever and as economical as possible, how can these people be wasting so much money on bad fashion and bad fashion advertising?

The joke of the NYTimes article is that after reporting on these fashion shows last spring as if they were the gospel, they dismiss all their efforts in one article that gets to the heart of the matter….what is it that the consumer WANTS to buy instead of what “god(the magazines)” tells them to buy. I remember one vendor saying to me that it doesn’t matter what you buy for your store it’s more important what the magazines TELL you to buy….really???? We never bought into that.

These paradigms are fading…slowly. When something become too obvious it’s time to move on. Another one of these is the combination of a “Famous Person” in association with  “DESIGNING” clothes and other products. First they are not designers….they sell their name to promote clothes that are copies of other peoples work, in Chinese Factories. I don’t fault the people who make these clothes they make lots of money doing this….the fault lies with the consumer for buying into this falsehood. Madonna’s daughter is 13, I’m sure she’s creative, but you can’t put her in the same category as Proenza Schouler who have , I think, reached 30. Jessica Simpson is probably going to meetings and saying “I like this I like that” but she hasn’t had the training to know how to construct a garment. But it seems everywhere you turn this formula is appearing…..make-up, bed linens, QVC…..Are the top requirements for purchasing items; 1. They have a “famous” name attached to them  2. That they appear in magazines (maybe worn by Stars), 3. That there is a fake discount (or flash sale) attached to the purchase? Is it that formulaic? Are we not capable of judging  a product on it’s own merits anymore?…I don’t know you tell me….We’re betting that you can….and we are  betting that you will prefer it that way.

 

 

 

Old School Jeans

Anyone who has listen to me talk about sportswear in the last five years has also heard me say “the one thing your closet doesn’t need is another pair of jeans. First of all I was sick and tired of looking at every American wearing jeans 24/7. No matter where we are, no matter what we are doing we are wearing jeans….sometimes ripped, sometimes bleached, sometimes hand rubbed they look sloppy and predictable. The funny thing is that jeans are supposed to be the great equalizer, but really they are the most toxic garment one can wear. 80% of the jeans made globally are made in China because of the toxic waste they produce. They have traced cancer in children near the rivers wear they have dumped the indigo dye that makes blue jeans …well… blue. Having said that….the best looms to make denim are in Japan (about 10% of the denim made). The Japanese bought all the machinery from American companies when we decided to make denim cheaply and washed out.

OK so here I go…I found a company “Raleigh”that makes jeans old school. I don’t know why but I was in the mood for it….The sales person for the company, John, will tell you I walked into their showroom with such an attitude….”I don’t buy jeans I leave that to department stores and jeans stores and A&F and The Gap and anyone else who wants to join in”. So why was I there? Because he asked me to come by. I felt like I was looking at jeans that James Dean would have worn. The denim was Japanese which means they had selvedge edges and the color that pure denim weave produces which is true dark denim. The fit has a low rise but not too low so they have that 501 feeling. Of course to make the jeans authentic they were raw (not washed) with a button fly….but after all it is 2011 so I had them rinsed once (so your washing machine and dryer won’t turn blue and the jeans won’t feel like sandpaper) and put in a zipper fly (so it’s easier to get on and OFF).

 

Old School Raleigh Jeans

I even shot the picture with old fashion film, and had the models cuff them, just like James Dean. Look at the women’s jeans they’re not skinnies, they are manstyle which looks great with a feminine top. (The women’s jeans have stretch in them which technically does not make them authentic but they sure do look like it.)

 

She really looks like she was from the 50's

One of the most important facts about the history of denim is that they started in America because they were made in America. Raleigh is also made in America. The tag in the back of the jeans states that fact and gives a certain air of authenticity.  I guess if I was getting back into the jeans game I should start at the beginning.

 

They make it easy to understand "Made in America"